Over the last fortnight, Disney released and quickly withdrew some sparkly, sexy Merida artwork for her ‘coronation ceremony’. The slimming down, aging up and general ‘princess-isation’ of Merida who was billed as a character who hated the fluff of being a princess spurred endless column inches about gender and femininity as well as a “Say No To The Merida Make Over” petition with 233,846 supporters to date.
In the wake of the kerfuffle someone from Disney, a woman called Catherine Connors, was trotted out to defend the artwork. In her babble post she wrote:
The gussied up Merida on the coronation invitation is Merida gussied up for one of the most important events of her princess career. That she’s a little more sparkly for the party is not a heresy against her independent and spirited self – I consider myself independent and spirited, and I wore the sparkliest gown that I could find when I got married, because of course I did.
Well, Catherine Connors, of course you did. You also grew up to work for a company that peddles a very specific ideal of women, femininity and beauty so yes, of course you did.
The problem is this isn’t about you. The reality is that not every girl wants to wear a sparkly dress for her wedding. Some girls don’t want to wear a dress at all. Some girls don’t even want to be a princess. Merida is, by her own admission, one of these girls. The other 10 princesses from Snow White in 1938 to Rapunzel in 2010 are wearing sparkly dresses for the Catherine Connors of this world. Merida was supposed to represent everyone else.
There is nothing inherently wrong with wearing makeup and a pretty dress and wanting to be a princess. A woman in a pretty dress isn’t any less awesome than a woman in jeans and nor is Merida in a sparkly dress any less Merida. The problem is, by putting Merida into a traditional outfit, Disney is saying this is the only way to be a princess. The makeover forces Merida back into the very image that she spends her whole film trying to escape.
Merida was supposed to give girls a choice instead Disney have invalidated not only her character but also the girls who looked up to her.
More on Merida and Princess Makeovers:
- Merida and the Problem with the Disney Princess Franchise (ladygeekgirl.wordpress.com)
- Why Merida Matters: The great makeover debate (jennifershewmaker.com)
- Disney Pulls Sexy Merida Makeover After Public Backlash (jezebel.com)